How the Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro blew it over the winter

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OK, yeah, they should have kept Cliff Lee, too. But this is about the offense.
The Phillies have received excellent work from Roy Halladay, yet nearly halfway through 2010, they’re a mere six games over .500 and in third place in the NL East. The postseason is still very much within reach, yet the road just got a little more difficult Tuesday, with word that both Chase Utley and Placido Polanco would require DL stints.
Filling in at second and third will be Juan Castro, Greg Dobbs, Wilson Valdez and Brian Bocock.
No, it’s not a stellar group.
Castro – 597 career OPS, 492 in 113 AB in 2010
Dobbs – 723 career OPS, 465 in 66 AB in 2010
Valdez – 581 career OPS, 624 in 127 AB in 2010
Bocock – 414 career OPS, 470 in 212 AB in Triple-A in 2010
Of course, there’s not a team in baseball that can lose someone like Utley and merely shake it off. But the Phillies were especially ill-prepared for infield injuries this year and they’ve had the misfortune of having their second baseman, third baseman and shortstop all land on the disabled list.
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. deserves a lot of the blame for the ugly situation. Going into the winter, he had nine of his 13 position spots accounted for. Then he did this:
Nov. 24 – Signed Castro to a one-year, $750,000 contract with a club option for 2011
Dec. 1 – Signed Brian Schneider to a two-year, $2.75 million contract
Dec. 3 – Signed Polanco to a three-year, $18 million contract
Dec. 8 – Agreed with Ross Gload on a two-year, $2.6 million contract
And that was it. Barely a month after the World Series was in the books, the Phillies’ position roster was completely settled, barring injuries.
Amaro completely ignored the trends established the previous winter. He overspent to bring in players early and gave unnecessary multiyear deals to bench players.
Just as bad, he gave minor league free agents absolutely no reason to consider the Phillies. It should have been an attractive situation for veteran Triple-A players, given the Phillies’ status as a World Series contender and their lack of position player depth in the upper minors. But since there wasn’t even going to be a hint of competition for bench spots in spring training, the players went elsewhere.
Which is why they’re left with Valdez and Bocock.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.